PEPPERED FILETS MIGNONS WITH SHERRY AND RAISINS
(recipe courtesy Wolfgang Puck, "Wolfgang Puck Makes it Easy," Rutledge Hill Press, 2004)
Steak au poivre, as the French call beefsteaks crusted with cracked peppercorns, has become a staple of classic cuisine. But don’t let the French words make you think that there is anything difficult about this dish. In fact, it is a rapid, very easy sauté, which I’ve made even more impressive with a simple sauce that complements the flavors of the beef and pepper with a hint of sherry and the tangy sweetness of raisins. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice to soak up the delicious juices.
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole white peppercorns
6 filet mignon steaks, about 6 ounces each, trimmed of excess fat
Kosher salt to taste
2 tablespoons mild-flavored oil such as canola or safflower oil
1 cup dry sherry
1 cup beef stock or good-quality canned beef or chicken broth, or 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup seedless golden or brown raisins
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1. To crack the peppercorns, put them in a resealable heavy plastic food-storage bag. Place the bag on a flat work surface and, with the bottom of a heavy saucepan or skillet, tap them lightly to crack them into large pieces. Put the cracked peppercorns on a plate. One by one, sprinkle both sides of each filet evenly with salt to taste, and then press each side into the peppercorns to coat it.
2. Over high heat, heat a heavy skillet or sauté pan large enough to hold the steaks comfortably (cook the steaks in batches if your pan is not big enough). Add the oil and as soon as you see the slightest wisps of smoke, carefully add the steaks. Cook the steaks undisturbed for 4 minutes, then carefully turn them over and cook 4 minutes more for medium-rare. For well-done steaks, reduce the heat to medium low and cook a few more minutes on both sides. Transfer the steaks to a heated platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep them warm while you make the sauce.
3. Pour off the excess fat from the skillet and return it to high heat. Add the sherry, stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan deposits, and boil until it reduces to about half its original volume, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the stock and raisins and continue boiling until the liquid reduces by half again, 4 to 5 minutes more (if using hoisin sauce, simply stir it in). A piece at a time, whisk in the butter to form a thick, glossy sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste with a little salt.
4. Transfer the steaks to individual serving plates. Stir the juices that have collected on the platter into the sauce. Spoon the sauce over and around the steaks and serve.